Channel Clusters

All Six Clusters are now Fully Subscribed

Background Info on Channel Clusters:

Channel Clusters is a development programme for small, rapidly developing food and drink companies. The programme provides a complete package of assistance to drive companies to the next level of growth.

During the programme, participants will learn to work effectively with a Channel Partner and to grow their business through this channel. The programme is open to all categories of food and drink and branded and own label products. The programme is run by the Irish Exporters Association.

This project was made possible through a financial contribution from the European Regional Development Fund Ireland Wales (INTERREG 4A) 2007-2013. This article reflects the views of the author only and not those of the Programme Authorities.

How the Programme Works

Companies will be brought together into groups of five, called a Cluster, by an industry expert selected by the IEA, with extensive experience of the food and drink sector.

The Programme will run for a duration of 12 months which takes into account the lead times required to implement the company strategies developed by the mentor.

At the outset of the programme, this mentor will meet each company owner individually to explore and assess the company’s performance in the market place. This will involve gaining a thorough understanding of the company’s history to date, the product range and the opportunities for growth.

The Role of the Channel Partner

After meeting the five participants individually, a Channel Partner will be recruited to work with the cluster. The IEA and mentor work jointly to recruit this partner. The mentor will convene a ‘meet the buyer’ event where the Channel Partner will meet with the cluster participants. At this meeting, the Channel Partner will outline to the five potential suppliers the areas for growth, the opportunities and requirements from suppliers to achieve listing status, or if already listed, to further develop their product range with the Channel Partner. Subsequent to this meeting, the consultant will undertake to work with each company individually over a period of 12 months to meet the requirements outlined by the Channel Partner. These workshops will be tailored to overcome the specific challenges that each company faces.

So far, five Channel Partners have agreed to participate on the Programme. They are Horgan's Delicatessen Supplies, La Rousse Foods, BWG, Pallas Foods and the PRM Group.  Many thanks to them for taking part!

The Elements to the Programme

Each company will receive forty hours of individual mentoring and assistance and this can be staggered into half days sessions over a period of months at times that suit the participant company. Telephone and email communication will also take place between these workshops.
In addition to face to face assistance, a number of group workshops will be organized by the Cluster mentor. These workshops will involve sharing best practice via case studies, insights and experiences between the cluster. Relationships will be developed between the company owners and the pooling of resources between participants will be explored by the mentor.

During the programme, the cluster participants will travel to the UK to exhibit their products at a major exhibition. This will be organized by the mentor and the IEA. Alongside the Irish stand, a Welsh cluster, run by Menter a Busnes, a business development agency funded by the Welsh Assembly, will similarly exhibit their products. They will also go on a study tour in the UK to targeted retailers or foodservice. The cluster participants will meet buyers in the UK at this event. A group workshop with the Welsh cluster participants will be organized at this event. The Programme aims to establish a footprint for the Irish products in the UK market by the end of the 12 month period and this will be done by leveraging the insights and knowledge of the Welsh cluster.
Towards the end of the Programme a second ‘meet the buyer’ event will be held. The objective of this meeting is for the five participants to make a successful presentation to the Channel Partner, achieving listing status or developing further business with them. If and when this is achieved, the mentor will assist the companies to build on the business with the Channel partner until the end of the programme.

Small food and drink companies that have strong potential to grow but need assistance to do the following:

  • Identify gaps in the market and find ways to fill these gaps
  • Learn how to produce to the requirements of key buyers
  • Understand best-in-class approach to New Product Development
  • Enhance presentation skills and understand how to sell to a Channel Partner.
  • Improve business practices and competitiveness.
  • Optimise existing product range and enhance marketing plans.
  • Secure foothold in UK market
  • Share activities in distribution, research, marketing et al with other companies.
  • Extend networks of contacts

Which Companies are Taking Part?

The following companies have participated in Channel Clusters:
Dees; Farmfresh Homemade Foods; St Tola Organic Goats Cheese; Irish Atlantic Sea Salt; Janet's Country Fayre; A Growing Pleasure; Dromoland Game; Silver Pail Dairy; Dawn Fresh Foods; Ummera Smoked Products; McEvoy Foods; Dunhill Cuisine; JM Foodservice; Stable Diet; Kyle's Kitchen; Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese; Dragon Nutrition; Glen Aine Foods; Homestyle Meats; Goatsbridge Trout Farm; Clinton Foods; Natasha's Living Foods; Safa Food; Coolattin Cheddar and Kush Seafarms.


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This project was made possible through a financial contribution from the European Regional Development Fund Ireland Wales (INTERREG 4A) Programme 2007-2013. This article reflects the views of the author only and not those of the Programme Authorities.